The Buccaneers selected a big-bodied defensive tackle to headline their 2018 draft class.

Vita Vea, at 347 pounds, projects as an immediate help to the run defense, which ranked 23rd last season.

The Buccaneers have a potential quality run-stopper to complement Gerald McCoy in the middle. We’ll find out if Vea has upside as a pass-rusher, but his ability to latch on to ball-carriers should ease the linebackers jobs.

Don’t expect Payne to accumulate sacks. He’s an interior defender who’s strong enough to hold up at the point of attack with the technical ability to shed blocks and record stops. The Alabama product isn’t the cure-all acquisition for the run defense, but Washington won’t finish last in the category for the upcoming season.

When the front office trades first- and fifth-round selections, along with next year’s first-round pick, for a defensive end at No. 14, he better start Week 1. Don’t worry, New Orleans Saints fans, there’s room for Marcus Davenport to learn on the fly.

Alexander, who’s the more athletic of the two rookie cornerbacks, will take over a starting position with snaps on the boundary and in the slot.

During the offseason, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett started to discuss the possibility of utilizing Jaylon Smith as a strong-side linebacker, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill:

The SAM in our defense is an important spot but there is so much nickel defense being played in the NFL. Often times you only have two linebackers out on the field, so you want to give him more than just that role. He might be a SAM in base but you want to make sure he has a role when we’re playing our two linebackers defense as well.

Whether Smith shifts over to the strong side or not, there’s one certainty: The Cowboys starting linebacker unit will undergo some changes. Anthony Hitchens signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, which opens another spot.bucks_245

Pats now have plenty of ammunition to move up for a quarterback

Three teams in the AFC East could now be angling for top-shelf quarterbacks in the draft.

The Jets already sit in prime position after moving from No. 6 to No. 3 last month. The Bills, with two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and two third-round picks, have the ammo to make the climb as high as No. 2, maybe No. 1.

The Lions have vowed to field a more legitimate running game in 2018. That should also mean they’re thinking about another offensive line upgrade with this pick, but it would not be shocking if Guice were to be selected this high. He would allow Detroit to officially give up on Ameer Abdullah and would be the workhorse ahead of new veteran backup LeGarrette Blount and pass-catching Theo Riddick.

The Bengals last year paid the price after letting both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeiter walk in free agency. The offensive line needs to be addressed further after the addition of Cordy Glenn for left tackle. Williams is viewed more as an inside blocker and could start right away at either guard spot.

The fact that the Cooks trade happened now, and not with the Rams’ pick on the clock on the first night of the draft, shows that the interest in Beckham was real — or at least that Patriots coach Bill Belichick believed it to be real. Belichick surely would have insisted on waiting to do the deal sat a time when he couldn’t be leapfrogged at No. 23. The Rams apparently pushed back, telling the Patriots if they don’t do the deal now, the Rams reserve the right to do the deal for Beckham later.

Now, the Beckham deal to the Rams won’t be happening. It doesn’t mean the trade won’t be made to another team, but taking the Rams out of the mix could give the Giants less leverage when it comes to getting the most they can for Beckham.

But playoff defenses are different animals. They will be ready for Miami’s handoffs and wildcat cutting. Smart defenses delight in the presence of extra non-shooters. The Heat should be mindful of that.bills_118

Bengals in no hurry to extend Andy Dalton

Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton will not be getting a new contract any time soon.

Although quarterback salaries have taken off since the Bengals signed Dalton to a long-term extension in 2014, Bengals Vice President Troy Blackburn says the Bengals don’t think they need to re-do the deal.

“We didn’t sign the Andy Dalton deal because we thought it was a good deal. At the time it was an expensive deal. It was a heavy lift,” Blackburn said. “We did it because Andy was a winning starting quarterback in the National Football League, he had demonstrated that.

Rodgers, 34, is entering his 14th NFL season and is about to sign his last big contract — an expected record deal. While the Packers do not appear to have the future Hall of Famer’s heir apparent on their current roster, they do have decent young backups to provide depth for the short term. But again, a 36-year-old Favre didn’t expect Green Bay to draft his eventual replacement in 2006, either.

Davis was arrested at the Hawaiian Airlines check-in counter when, after being asked security questions about his luggage by an attendant, turned to a female companion and allegedly asked her, “Did you pack the explosives?”

The 24-year-old was taken into custody by LAX police and released from jail after posting $15,000 bond. The woman with Davis was not arrested, police said. Davis’ preliminary court hearing is scheduled for May 3.

Quinn also raved about the addition of running back LeGarrette Blount, who the GM said didn’t want to leave his free-agent visit until he signed his contract.

“He came in and really wanted to be here,” Quinn said. “He was really, really excited about the direction of this team, direction of ownership, management with coach Patricia in the fold. We spent a long day negotiation and LG wouldn’t leave until he signed the contract. It was great day and we’re really excited about what he’s going to bring.”bills_069

Saints leading the NFC South pack following measured free agency approach

No team in the NFC South has followed the Los Angeles Rams’ guide to building its 2018 roster. No one among the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers splashed all around the free-agent market.

Each team added pieces here and there. Each team subtracted pieces, which seemed to be the Panthers’ strategy more than anyone else in the division.

It’s still unclear exactly who will end up as the best quarterback from this class, but it does seem safe to say it won’t be Johnny Football. Twelve of the 20 scouts McGinn polled suggested Manziel’s career would go down as a miss, with scouts expressing concerns about his off-field behavior even before hitting the pros. Zach Mettenberger received one first-place vote, with his six points placing him just ahead of AJ McCarron’s five.

Winston was seen as a far more polarizing prospect at the time of the draft, owing in part to his off-field troubles. One scout compared Winston to a less athletic version of JaMarcus Russell. Eight of the 19 executives on McGinn’s anonymous committee suggested Winston would be a disappointment or a bust, while just one said the same thing about Mariota.

“I thought it was a unique hire,” Dilfer, a former ESPN analyst and an expert in quarterbacks, told NJ Advance Media. “But I became a big fan once I started doing the mental gymnastics of it. I think it’s a really good partnership because it fills in gaps on both sides.”

Shurmur is a West Coast offense disciple of coach Andy Reid’s with the Eagles, with recent exposure to Norv Turner with the Vikings. Shula used run-pass-options with the Cam Newton-led Panthers to supplement his upbringing in the power rushing attack.

“For Pat to have Mike there for the expertise in some of the heavy-run stuff, the play-action game is a huge value,” Dilfer said. “Especially playing in New (Jersey).

“You have to play the grind-it out-ugly game sometimes. You can’t throw it all over the place sometimes. There are elements, in late-season football where you have to play that power game.”bills_051

Robert Kraft: Patriots obviously have to think about drafting QB

When rating the possibility of the New England Patriots selecting a quarterback within the first three rounds of the NFL draft, I went all-in as part of the 32-team NFL Nation piece on the topic. The Patriots have traditionally had a developmental prospect on their roster and this looks like a good year for them to add another to the pipeline.

The topic also came up over the last two days at the NFL’s annual meetings.

The Patriots’ history of drafting quarterbacks in Belichick’s tenure, especially recently, ties into this.

No other explanation holds enough water. Is Beckham a truly unique case from that standpoint, though Receivers have always, sometimes rightfully, been viewed as divas, with all-time greats like Terrell Owens and Randy Moss needing to be managed in different ways for them to succeed. Beckham hasn’t been accused of domestic violence and isn’t in constant trouble with the police. So why have the Giants taken such a strong opposition to the behavior of an ultra-talented 25-year-old with the world at his feet but who clearly has immaturity issues, rather than, say, kicker Josh Brown Brown was re-signed by the Giants in 2016 even after he admitted to being physically abusive to his then-wife.

New York only decided to part ways with him after the allegations came to light later that year in an incident that took some serious shine off the team’s reputation as one of the NFL’s best-run franchises. Beckham’s sidelines outbursts aren’t appropriate, but neither is Tom Brady’s, but the latter’s are accepted because he’s able to back it up on the field, and no one ever questions Brady’s locker room presence because of them despite playing a position that’s deemed to need mature, leader-type qualities. The Giants are just as at fault for Beckham’s issues as he is, as they only really became a serious issue after Tom Coughlin was replaced by the disastrously inexperienced Ben McAdoo, who also clashed with seemingly every defensive back last season before being fired after Week 12. In the NFL, talent always outweighs every negative factor.patriots_121-223x223

Gurley won’t say if Beckham said he wants to come to L.A., but it’would be awesome’

It’s only been a few days since Giants owner John Mara firmly stated that Odell Beckham Jr. is not on the trade block. Of course, that has not stopped the speculation that Beckham might be headed elsewhere at some point this offseason, with the hot destination of choice being the Los Angeles Rams.

Reached by the Los Angeles Times this week, Rams running back Todd Gurley didn’t hide the fact that he’d be excited for Beckham to join him in LA. He did, however, decline to say whether or not Beckham has personally expressed interest in making the move.

Hmm, I don’t want to say all that, he said, smiling, per The Times. That’s my boy.

The Rams have already made several star-caliber additions this offseason, bringing in Marcus Peters from the Chiefs, Aqib Talib from the Rams, and Ndamukong Suh in free agency. Those additions, however, are all on the defensive side of the ball. The most notable offensive move the Rams made was letting Sammy Watkins walk in free agency.

That pick prompted this response from Francesa: You better have somewhere to kneel and pray that they stay healthy, especially Cespedes.

Francesa on the Yankees: Over 94.5.

I don’t think they’ll win it easy and I don’t think they’ll win 100. But I think they’ll win the division comfortably. I think (Neil) Walker is a perfect fit for the Yankees. They have young kids that are ready to play. They’ll do whatever they need to win. They are ready for a very big season.

Ellis also said that the team hopes to find out if they have been selected in May when league owners convene for more meetings.

It’s a competitive process, and we’re excited to move one step closer to bringing the NFL draft to Denver, Ellis said in February when Denver was announced as one of five finalists to host a future draft.

The other potential host cities being considered are Cleveland-Canton, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Nashville.

Anyone who follows his career shouldn’t be surprised. Townes scored 1,863 points in high school and is second in St. Joe’s history to Jay Williams, one of New Jersey’s best players ever. That includes his famous teammate Towns, who just dropped 56 points for the Timberwolves in a recent game.patriots_018-223x223